Who Review – The Rings Of Akhaten
Happy Sunday Evil Geeks! I don’t know about you folks, but I’m at the point in my life where whenever Doctor Who is in season, pretty much all day every Saturday is spent in anticipation of the upcoming episode. Even though I usually DVR it and watch it shortly after it airs (just so I can skip through the commercials), I’m actively scheduling my Saturday nights to give me at least one free hour so I can check in with the Doctor. After last week’s episode marking the first time Clara manged to live through an entire episode, the question looms of whether she would be able to make it through two episodes in a row? You know, after dying and coming back so many times, could it be that Clara is just a reincarnated Rory?
Clara does manage to survive to see episode three, but I can’t help but feel that I didn’t enjoy this episode as much as I did last week’s. It feels like there are competing storylines in this episode that are at odds with each other. There’s the main story of the mystery behind Clara, as well as the story of Clara’s first experience on an alien planet, and if that wasn’t enough, there’s also the story of the episode itself. There’s so much going on that each of these storylines don’t get the full fleshing out that they require. The episode is trying to be both a stand alone story and also a chapter of the larger overall story and those competing dynamics didn’t blend well.
I did enjoy the Indiana Jones-like vibe of the episode, the market that the Doctor and Clara travel to is equal parts Moroccan bazaar mixed with Mos Eisley. I loved the Doctor’s nod to Dr. Jones when he reached back through the stone door to grab his sonic screwdriver as it was about to slam shut after he slid underneath it. Well played Doctor, well played. Now that I think about it, how amazingly kick ass would a Doctor Who and Indiana Jones crossover be?!?! Kingdom of the Crystal Skull would be TOTALLY redeemed if at the end, the TARDIS shows up then the Doctor and Indy chase down those crystal headed aliens. I’d even be willing to allow that movie back into the Indiana Jones Universe’s cannon if they did that. Back to the Rings of Akhaten, which is where the Doctor has brought Clara this week. The rings as well as a large pyramid-shaped temple, orbit a planet that is supposedly the birthplace of all life in the universe, so this is the perfect place for Clara to begin her life on the TARDIS. It’s the first time Clara’s ever left Earth, so the adventure theme and exotic locale create an atmosphere that helps the viewer feel something akin to what Clara is feeling in this strange new world. That’s one of the things that I always think about in the “first time out” stories that are commonplace every time there’s a new companion: what must it feel like to go from living in a world where you thought you were completely alone in the universe to standing in the middle of an intergalactic melting pot, surrounded by life forms that you couldn’t even conceive of just a few days ago? How mind-blowing of an experience that must be? Why not spend an entire episode trying to convey that same sense of wonder to the audience? I understand that they do this type of episode every time a new companion comes aboard, but that experience has got to be so unbelievably surreal that it would affect people in different ways, allowing for different types of stories to be told.
I also liked the menagerie of villains this episode had to offer; if not for their cool look, then for them affording us the opportunity to see the Doctor admit that he made a mistake or in his words “a small tactical error”. The Doctor mistakes the raging, glass box encased mummy in the temple for the God that the inhabitants of the Rings worship, but the mummy just turns out to be the universe’s ugliest alarm clock. The real big bad is indeed a VERY BIG bad. It’s a planet sized monster that feeds on stories and memories. The low-level baddies also had a cool look to them, but I don’t know about the whole screaming blue at people thing. I wonder if their powers would still work on me if I pulled a Tobias Funke and just blue myself?
So what about Clara? We learn a little bit more about her past, including the origin of her 101 Places to See book. It turns out it was originally her mom’s, who then gave it to Clara. We also learn what the meaning of “Page 1” of the book is. It’s a leaf that hit her father in the face, blinding him to the fact that he was about to be hit by a car. Just before impact, he’s pulled to safety by a woman whom he’d then begin to date afterwards, then eventually marry and have a daughter with; that daughter being Clara. We also find out that Clara’s mom died a few years ago. I feel like the Clara part of the story really got shortchanged by all the other happenings. We did learn a little about her, but damn it we WANT more! Clara does become suspicious of the Doctor’s reason for taking her along with him, forcing him to admit that she reminds him of someone who died. She has no idea how wrong she is when she says that she isn’t that person.
This wasn’t my favorite episode, I’d even go so far as to say that it’s my least favorite of this season, but I can think of a thousand other much worse ways to spend an hour. By no means was it unwatchable, there’s a lot of things I enjoyed about this episode, but the story telling is trying to accomplish too much in the span of an hour to the disservice of those storylines it’s trying to cram in. I feel like this episode would have fit in better a little bit down the road, after Clara has been around for a while, this way there would have been one less plotline to attend to. The previews for next week look good, so I can guarantee you I’ll be spending all of next Saturday in anticipation of 8pm. Check in with us next Sunday for your weekly Who Review!
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